Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Metallica Songs – Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Metallica Songs

“Master of Puppets,” “Battery” and your other favorites by the metal legends


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If Metallica fans don't like the song selection on the group's upcoming European tour, they have only themselves to blame. That's because the band is letting ticket holders in every city vote on the set list. Every single song in their vast catalog is fair game and the results are public on the band's website. "To be totally honest with you, sometimes I wish they would vote on some of the really obscure songs," says Lars Ulrich. "We love playing crazy stuff. . .We want to mix it up as much as possible." We decided to do our own poll and have our readers vote for their favorite Metallica songs. Click through to see the results. 

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10. “Seek and Destroy”

Experienced Metallica fans know exactly what the opening notes of "Seek and Destroy" mean at a concert: time to get your coat on and think about an exit strategy because the show is about to wrap up. The group is famous for shifting up their set list from night to night, but it's tradition to wrap up with "Seek and Destroy," one of their oldest songs that dates all the way back to Dave Mustaine's tenure in the group. No two versions of the song are the same, and a rendition on Live Shit: Binge and Purge is over 18 minutes long. They've played this one more than 1,300 times and it's impossible to imagine a show without it. It would be like the Ramones skipping "Blitzkrieg Bop" or AC/DC leaving without "Highway to Hell." 

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9. “Battery”

A very large segment of Metallica's fans feel the group peaked with their 1986 album Master of Puppets, which kicks off with this insanely fast thrash classic. The lyrics seem to refer to the battery of an incredibly violent confrontation, but Metallica cut their teeth at a San Francisco club called the Old Waldorf, located at 444 Battery Street, leading many to think the song is also about the battery of heavy metal music. Whatever the truth, "Battery" remains one of the great head banging songs of the 1980s. For a gentler take on it, check out the version on S&M that the group recorded with the San Francisco Symphony. 

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8. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”

Metallica's second-ever ballad (after "Fade to Black") is this dark tale of a man trapped in a mental asylum that seems to be plotting a violent revolt. When Rivers Cuomo wrote Weezer's "Undone – The Sweater Song" the track must have been in his head. "It wasn't until years after I wrote it that I realized it's almost a complete rip-off of 'Sanitarium' by Metallica," Cuomo told Rolling Stone in 2009. "It just perfectly encapsulates Weezer to me — you're trying to be cool like Velvet Underground but your metal roots just pump through unconsciously."

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7. “Blackened”

Metallica's 1988 LP …And Justice for All was a major turning point for the band. It was their first album since the tragic death of bassist Cliff Burton, and the first album they agreed to promote their work with a music video. The disc kicks off with "Blackened," an uncharacteristically political song about the "death of mother earth" and the threat of a nuclear war. It's an enormously complicated song to perform since it constantly shifts time signatures. 

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6. “For Whom the Bell Tolls”

Many people probably assume that the guys in Metallica don't sit around reading Ernest Hemingway books in their spare time, but someone in the group obviously picked up his 1940 classic For Whom the Bell Tolls before writing this song with the same title. The lyrics are directly inspired by a section of the book where soliders in the Spanish American War are gunned down on a hill. It's one of the standout tracks on Metallica's 1984 disc Ride the Lightning

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5. “Creeping Death”

In the early 1980s, Metallica were watching the scene in the Charlton Heston movie The Ten Commandments when the Angel of Death kills the first-born son of all the Egyptians. "Whoa," bassist Cliff Burton said. "It's like creeping death." The group liked the phrase and quickly wrote this thrash masterpiece for their second album, Ride the Lightning. The song is told from the point of view of the Angel of Death and is full of references to the Book of Exodus

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4. “Orion”

The closest that Metallica ever got to prog rock was their 1986 instrumental from Master of Puppets. The song is more than eight minutes long and was named after the constellation Orion because it has a spacey bridge. Cliff Burton played a huge role in the writing of this song, and his bass solo is arguably his greatest moment in the band's history. The song is still in the group's live rotation, but it hasn't quite sounded right since Cliff passed away. 

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3. “Fade to Black”

Metallica fans have been accusing the group of selling out all the way back to the release of this 1984 song, which was the group's first ballad. It's a dark track about depression and suicide, and in a bizarre twist of fate James Hetfield nearly died while performing it in 1992 on a co-headlining tour with Guns N' Roses. A giant ball of flames shot up during the end of the song, and Hetfield got confused and stood right above it. He suffered horrible third-degree burns and couldn't play guitar for weeks, but the tour carried on. 

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2. “Master of Puppets”

Many of the songs on Master of Puppets are about the loss of control in some form or another. The epic title track addresses addiction. "It deals pretty much with drugs," James Hetfield says. "How things get switched around, instead of you controlling what you're taking and doing, it's drugs controlling you." The song has been played live at nearly every Metallica concert since 1986, racking up over 1,400 plays. Just a few weeks ago, they opened a show with it for the very first time. They also recently broke it out on The Howard Stern Show and The Colbert Report

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1. ‘One’

For a great many Metallica fans, "One" was their first exposure to the band. That's largely due to the fact it marks the moment they finally folded and agreed to make a music video, which was played incessantly on MTV in 1989. This was the era of Poison and Warrant, but Metallica didn't make a clip with girls in bikinis. Instead, they took footage from the 1971 movie Johnny Got His Gun, based on the 1939 novel about a World War I solider whose arms and legs get blown off by a land mine. It was the opposite of everything on MTV at the time, and it was absolutely brilliant. The song has been a key moment in their live show ever since. 

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